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RCGP warns on website prescribers

BBC Panorama programme raises concerns about patients buying prescriptions online

Mark Gould

Monday, 06 August 2018

A BBC Panorama programme, due to be screened tonight, raises concerns that websites providing primary care services are selling prescription medicines to patients without having access to their full medical records.

The programme goes undercover to reveal online doctor sites that it says are "putting profit before patient care". In 2017 the Care Quality Commission (CQC) issued a warning about the risks of buying drugs prescribed by doctors online. The programme discovers opiate-based painkillers and slimming tablets being sold to potentially vulnerable people and antibiotics being delivered across Europe in the face of warnings about resistance.

In the programme Dr Faye Kirkland, journalist and GP, meets the families of patients who have died after online consultations and exposes the sites running rings around the regulators.

Commenting on the programme Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: "It's deeply concerning to hear reports of patients buying prescription medication from unverified online providers with minimal security checks, or from websites whereby the prescribers involved don't have access to their full medical records when prescribing potentially dangerous medications.

"GPs are expert medical generalists who are highly-trained to prescribe medication based on the unique physical, psychological and social factors of the patient sitting in front of them, so without this, or adequate safeguards in place, the safety of our patients is put at serious risk.”

Professor Stokes-Lampard said the College welcomed the CQC's decision to start regulating online providers of primary care services in the UK, in the interests of ensuring they are safe for patients.

"We were incredibly concerned to hear reports that some companies are using legal loopholes, by registering their companies abroad, to bypass CQC inspections. Put simply, these services are putting our patients' safety at risk.

"We understand that online pharmacies might appear convenient to some patients, and if a patient chooses to use an online service as their preferred dispensary with a prescription from a healthcare professional, then they should be able to do so – but safely."

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